In what has been a particularly controversial move, Big Ben will be silenced for four years whilst repairs to the Elizabeth Tower are carried out. The move is part of health and safety control measures as there is a risk to hearing loss for those working on the tower and who may be particularly close to the bell when it chimes.

This has led to a furious response from certain media outlets and once again health and safety has been blamed for unnecessary regulation. The silencing of Big Ben has even prompted a response from Prime Minister Theresa May, who said that it “can't be right” that the famous bongs from the bell will be silenced for four years, whilst the House of Commons has said it will review the length of time that Big Ben will be quiet.

In response to the negative press around the move, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has commented that people's health should “not be made worse by the work they do and that no worker should suffer any hearing loss whilst working on this project.” Whilst the HSE has pointed out it was not responsible for the control measures implemented, it did work with the contractors during the planning stage of the project.

Cedrec's take

This particular issue seems to have been hotly debated in the media, but it is important to consider an important point.

The assessment of the risk posed to workers taking part in the repairs of the Elizabeth Tower has clearly highlighted the noise from the bells as a potential risk, however big or small. Many safety practitioners and competent experts will also be familiar with the safety hierarchy of control, which suggests that if a potential risk can be eliminated, that is the course of action that should be taken before any other control is considered. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242 outline general principles of prevention, the first principle being “avoiding risks” (there are also other areas of safety law that are applicable to this story). In this case, stopping Big Ben from chiming is an easy control measure to take and completely eliminates any risk posed to employees by the noise coming from the bell.

It may be an unpopular choice, but by law, the health of those at work must be protected, and it would make sense that stopping the chimes of Big Ben ensures that the hearing of those working close to the tower is not compromised.

Do you work in the safety or construction sectors? Let us know what you think about the silencing of Big Ben by tweeting us @cedrec_news.

For more information see, the:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242.